New Year Money Challenge

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While you are picking your new Word of the Year, it is also a good time to give a little thought to your financial situation. If saving nearly $1400 this year sounds like a good idea, then you might want to consider doing the 52-Week Money Challenge. This isn’t a new thing. If you’ve been on Pinterest over the last few years, you may have seen the chart or variations floating around on Facebook. The idea is very simple: for each of the 52 weeks in the year, you save $1 to $52. At the end of the 52 weeks, you will have saved a total of $1378.00. Easy!

There is a bit of conversation online about the ‘best’ way to do the savings challenge. Here are a few suggestions, find the one that works best for your personality.

LEAST TO MOST

The original challenge has you saving $1 on week one, $2 on week 2, $3 on week 3, up to $52 on week 52. This way, you begin gradually. Saving $1 is painless at the start and in the first month you’re only saving $10. By the time you get to the end of the challenge, you will be accustomed to putting aside the money.

MOST TO LEAST

Staying committed to a challenge that gets harder and harder is definitely a downside of the original challenge. An alternative that has been suggested is that you do it in reverse – start by saving $52 in week 1, $51 in week 2, $50 in week 3, down to $1 in week 52. The original hardship of saving is over with and by the end of the first month you will already have $202 saved. Saving will only get easier from there!

MIX IT UP

The biggest drawback of both of the above versions is that both December and January are likely two of the hardest months to scratch up a spare $202 to set aside, so if you start easy, December 2015 is going to be tight and if you start hard, you better hope you didn’t over spend at Christmas! A third option is to have your spreadsheet of the different amounts you are going to need to contribute and then just put in what you can, when you can, and cross off that amount on your chart. You could even balance the amounts over the month, for example doing $52, $51, $1, $2 the first month, $50, $49, $3, $4, the second. You will average about $115/month in your savings if you do it equally.

DOUBLE DOWN

$1378 would be an amazing amount of money to have at the end of the year, but if you have a bigger goal in mind for the start of 2016, you might want to save some more. Consider doubling the amounts for a savings of $2756 at the end of the year, just figure out which month would be easiest to save $404 and go from there. Still not enough? Triple it! $4134 is a great chunk of money to have.

HIDING THE CASH

There are a few different methods of storing your money. Pinterest proposes that you have a Mason jar on your kitchen counter, out where you can see it so that you never forget. Attach a copy of your payment schedule to the jar and mark it off as you go. You will always know how much is in there and how much you have to put in each week. My recommendation – GLUE THE LID. Having cash sitting out on display could be very tempting, too tempting! Especially if you have a kid or partner who ‘just needed a dollar’ or ‘promise they’ll pay it back’ or any number of excuses. If they container you put it in cannot be opened, then there is no risk of that money depleting instead of increasing. Poke a hole in the lid and watch it fill up.

BANK IT

Depending on your bank and the way your bank accounts are set up, you could do simple online banking and transfer money over from your chequing to your savings account every week. Insure that you will not have additional bank fees for doing this or you may not end up saving anything! Not having the cash present will save you from the risk of cracking open your jar in a desperate moment. Make a note on your calendar every week or tape it to your laptop so that you don’t forget to make the transfer.

Make a plan and start dreaming about what you’re going to do with your money!

Word of the Year

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If you aren’t too consumed with holiday crafts, parties, pageants, and every other wonderful thing that happens in mid-December, you may remember that the year 2014 is quickly coming to a close!  It has become very popular to choose a word of the year (or WOTY if you’re really cool) to summarize the previous year. Yesterday, Merriam-Webster announced that their WOTY for 2014 is CULTURE. Earlier, Oxford chose the word VAPE for 2014 and Dictionary.com has chosen EXPOSURE.

While many media outlets are looking backwards over the past year, it is also a time to look ahead and begin planning for 2015. As words can be found to define an entire year, people have begun choosing words to replace mantra’s, quotes or resolutions for their hopes and plans for the coming year. A WOTY can be a goal, a positive thought, a hope or desire, a focus or even encouragement, and it can give you direction and guidance with decision making.

How Does it Work? Simple: Pick a word. Pick two or three or seven, it’s your year, do what you want. If a word hasn’t already jumped into your head, then pause a moment and think about the next 12 months, really think about it. Run your mind over all of the events already planned out. Maybe look over the last 12 months and think about what you liked about them, what you would’ve done differently, how you wish you would’ve reacted to different events. What do you want more of in your life? What do you want less of in your life? Find a word or words to describe your goal(s).

Need some inspiration? Here are a few popular words: Continue reading

Tim Hortons Free Skates

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Just in case their coffee, donuts, lattes, muffins, and all the other deliciousness that comes over the counters at Tim Hortons isn’t enough to love them, Tim Hortons is bringing FREE public skating at local skating arenas this holiday season. Just in time for Christmas break! Grab your skates (and a helmet – the same rules apply as at regular public skating times) and get to the rink. Really, Tim Hortons + Skating, could things get more Canadian?

There is at least one free skate every day from December 19th to 24th, from December 27th to 30th, and from January 1st to 4th. With 30 skating times to choose from, your family could spend most of the holidays on the ice! There are even a few night time skates in case you want to get a babysitter and make it a cheap date night. Maybe even stop in for a Timmies on the way. ;)

Here is the full schedule of Tim Hortons free skates:

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LifeSpin: Helping Londoners in Need

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LifeSpin is a not-for-profit organization in East London that supports low income families throughout the year. As many London families know, it is hard enough to make ends meet in a regular month, but Christmas can be especially hard. Often after paying the bills, there is just not enough to buy any presents to put under the tree. Last year, LifeSpin provided gifts to over 2500 Londoners and this year, they need more help.

With the days before Santa arrives dwindling quickly, they have a long list of families seeking sponsorship. If it is at all possible for you, get some friends together, co-workers, family members, neighbours, church groups, even just yourself and sponsor a family in need.  The children have small wish lists and these parents would love to be able to see a few of their child’s Christmas dreams come true.

No one chooses to live in poverty. No family wants to be the one to have to ask for help. These families are doing the best they can and usually are in their position through no fault of their own.

IF YOU CAN HELP

Learn more about LifeSpin and the work they do HERE

Learn about their Christmas Program and how to sponsor a family HERE. It is very simple and the difference you will be making is immeasurable.

 

 

 

 

Potlucks and Parties, Oh My!

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I don’t know about you, but my life for the next three weeks is packed with parties, dinners, potlucks, get togethers, and a zillion other social events with food involved. Even one of my children’s classes is having a potluck party! This is when we all become divided as adults - one group will have actually prepared food at their house, one group will buy something en route to the event… and the other group will have forgotten altogether (no worries, there’s always enough food, am I right?). I prefer to make something, whenever possible, and fortunately, I have a few recipes that I am always ready to whip up at short notice. All it takes is a few ingredients that you probably already have and maybe one or two new things that you should just stock up on for the next month.

BEER AND CHEDDAR BREAD

I know, half of you just tuned out. Bread?? TRUST ME. This is the simplest thing ever. Most of these ingredients you probably already have, just make sure that you have a case of beer – yes, a case, you’ll want to make this over and over once you’ve tasted it! This is my go-to recipe for potlucks and pretty much any night of the week that I serve stew, chili or soup for dinner. It’s so simple, my 6 and 8 year olds now make it themselves up until the beer and the oven parts. It’ll be a hit at every potluck you bring it to, lunch or dinner.  Continue reading

Argyle BIA Children’s Festival and Parade

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This is your last chance to see Santa Claus parade down a street in London until next year! Whether this will be your first or your third parade of the year, it’s sure to be one you won’t want to miss. This Christmas is for Kids! parade is brought to you by the Argyle Business Improvement Area in the east end of London.

BREAKFAST WITH SANTA

The day begins early with a free breakfast of pancakes, fruit, tea and coffee. From 9:00am to 11:30am you can drop in and say hello to Santa Claus while you eat! Breakfast will be held at Clarke Road Secondary School (300 Clarke Road).

SANTA CLAUS PARADE

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This Weekend in London

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It’s the last weekend before the kids are off for the holidays. Looking for something to do other than shopping or decorating? We have some suggestions…

LONDON KNIGHTS

The Knights are playing twice this weekend! The puck drops at 7:30pm on Friday, December 12 and again at 2:00pm on Sunday, December 14. Go cheer on the boys in green!

HUNTER HAYES

The young country sensation is coming to the Bud this Saturday, December 13 at 7:00pm. There are a few tickets still available if you act fast.

SNOWYBOOK VILLAGE

Santa Claus, crafts with the elves, marshmallows over an open fire, outdoor skating… this is the place to be for families this weekend!

ELDON HOUSE CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY

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Hunter Hayes at Budweiser Gardens

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Get ready for the giddy excitement, London, because Hunter Hayes is coming to town this weekend with his Tattoo (Your Name) Tour at the Budweiser Gardens. Hunter Hayes is a young, American, country sensation with 4 Grammy nominations and two hit CD’s to date. His first CD sold well over a million copies and attracted world wide attention with the single Wanted. His latest CD, released in May of this year, is rocking the charts, led by the hit song Invisible. Did you know that this talented artist can play over 30 instruments? Come and see how many he plays on stage this Saturday. If you have a fan in your house or you’re a fan yourself, you won’t want to miss this show!

There are limited tickets available through the Budweiser Gardens box office and better seats leaking through on kijiji if you can snatch them up.

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Snowybook Village

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Winter fun has arrived at Storybook SNOWYBOOK Gardens! The next two weekends are packed with holiday fun for the whole family.

The Castle is open from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays and 10am to 5pm on Sundays.

Admission is $4.25/adult, $3.25/child (2-17yo), $13/family (2 adults, 2 children) and children under 24 months are free.

Here is the scoop on what will be happening:

SKATING

The skate trail is open and ready for your whole family to glide around the park. Say hello to the farm animals as you skate past and challenge your memory for all of the nursery rhymes and stories you see along the way. Skates are available in a variety of sizes, both hockey and figure skates, for $6/pair. Skating aids are available on a first come, first serve basis or bring your own! All children 5 and under must wear a CSA approved helmet. Strollers (other than umbrella strollers) may be allowed at the discretion of Storybook staff. For all of the skating fine print, see HERE.

SANTA CLAUS

Saturday and Sunday, December 13/14, 20/21 from 10am to 12noon, visit with Santa and Mrs Claus at Storybook Gardens!

SNOWYBOOK FUN

Also happening on Saturday and Sunday, December 13/14, 20/21 from 10am until 5pm are holiday crafts like Snow Goo in the Elves workshop and roasting marshmallows over a festive campfire. All activities are free with admission to the park.

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Gift Guide: Teacher Gifts

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I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you have children who are school-age, then the clock is ticking for you to get those Teacher Gifts bought and wrapped. For many of us, there are more than just teachers on that shopping list – ECE’s, EA’s, therapists, bus drivers, etc. Some of you will have standard go-to gifts that you give year after year, some of you will be new to this type of thing, and the rest may be somewhere in the middle. Instead of giving the teacher a box of chocolates or yet another Christmas mug/ornament that has either an apple or a #1 teacher scrawled on it (there’s a reason there are so many of these in thrift shops), we offer these suggestions:

NOTHING

Remember that a gift is not expected. Not all children give their teachers gifts, no matter what Pinterest tells you. If this is going to cause you stress, step back and relax. Your child isn’t going to get a lump of coal from the teacher if you don’t send a gift to school. It’s appreciated, for sure, but not required.

A CARD

Teachers unanimously say that a personalized card is always a treasured gift. Have your child make the card if they enjoy that sort of thing. Spend a few minutes to write a few lines about how much you appreciate the teacher and the work they do with your child and you are all set.

A DONATION IN LIEU OF A GIFT

My one child has seen a number of therapists over the years and while we love to recognize their amazing work and how much we appreciate them over the holiday season, they aren’t allowed to accept gifts. As an alternative to giving them something tangible, we have always chosen to give a donation somewhere in their name. For some ideas, see our Gift Guide on donations. This is also a great option for group gifts – daycare, preschool or kindergarten classrooms with multiple teachers/ECE’s, school staff that you want to recognize (that secretarial team that makes the school amazing, for example). Note that at this late date, many places will not be able to mail you a card before school is out, so opt for a print out or email version.

BOOKS

Many teachers stock their classroom with their own books. Donate a book or two to your child’s classroom or teacher’s book shelf. Have your child pick their favourite story from home or something new by their favourite author.

GIFT CARDS

A common default is going to be the Tim’s card, but find out if they prefer Starbuck’s instead or if they are that rare breed that doesn’t like coffee or tea at all. Show your child a cup from either place and ask them if they’ve seen it in their teacher’s hand. Chances are they can identify which their teacher prefers. Indigo cards are also a great idea for restocking/updating the classrooms book shelves or letting them pick a holiday read. LCBO is also a popular choice, though you might want to make sure that this will be a welcome gift. A favourite lunch place, somewhere they can buy school supplies or any other place you’ve heard them mention are some other ideas.

GROUP GIFTS

You’ll have to act now, but all it takes is one parent slipping a letter into each child’s backpack. Invite interested parents to send $5 or $10 per teacher to school in an envelope addressed to your child. Collect the cash, buy a larger gift, sign the card from all the kids whose parents donated money. I guarantee a lot of the parents who receive that letter will happily let you do the shopping on their behalf. Get a gift card for a spa, a nice restaurant or anywhere else where your teacher might want to spend a bit more money over the holidays.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Does your child constantly run out of pencil crayons and glue? Odds are good that his/her teacher does as well. Stock them up with markers, erasers, pencils, glue sticks, and whatever else they might need. For bonus points – buy them a pack of personalized labels (just check the shipping dates to make sure they’ll get here on time!).

 

Just to reiterate – gifts are appreciated, but not mandatory. Really. And while teachers will be appreciative of whatever you do give them, first ask yourself whether they would want 20 of whatever you plan on giving them. Twenty notes of appreciation? Yes. Twenty Christmas-scented candles? A bit overpowering. Twenty bedazzled photo frames? Eek.